picture source: thenbafinishers.com
Easily the loudest bang of the NBA off-season this past summer was LeBron James’ return to his home team, Cleveland, Ohio. He surprised many with this decision since most ESPN analysts thought would pursue another championship with the Miami Heat. Everyone who follows the NBA at some level knows what LeBron brings to a team: leadership, scoring, superior basketball IQ, elite passing, and rebounding. He is the perfect blueprint to construct a team around. The only issue is that he Cleveland Cavaliers were relatively quiet and subpar last season, meaning the necessary pieces to win at a consistent level were absent. Although LeBron’s physical and mental basketball attributes are what guide him to personal and team victories on the court, they aren’t necessarily the greatest benefits he offers his new team. Ironically, the best asset he can offer has nothing to do with in-game performance.
LeBron’s greatest contribution to a team is his once-in-an-era marketability. Of course, this is directly dependent on his skill on the court but anyways… THE MAN IS A WALKING FREE AGENT ATTRACTION! To all those “hired guns” looking for a team to join, LeBron figuratively holds up a sign saying, “Want to improve your career resume? Want to win instantly? Join the Cavaliers!” For this reason alone, the Cavaliers literally went from “0 to 100” in a single summer. Cleveland went from a city with no choice to reminisce about the good days with young LeBron to the national spotlight faster than you can say con-ten-der.
To start off, the eastern Conference of the NBA is nothing like the highly competitive western Conference. In the West, a 50-win team is lucky to slip into a 6th seed in the playoff while a 50-win team on the East is at the top. Being in the East is going to help the Cavaliers makea, relatively quick turnaround because the conference is literally wide open. Hell, the Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs in the East last year and they had a losing record! The only powers that could somewhat threaten the Cavs in the East are the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers had a difficult time scoring the ball last year. Now, with the loss of Paul George for the entire 2014-15 seasons, I see no way the Pacers are even getting by first round of the playoffs. The Washington Wizards are a fast-paced team on the rise led by stellar guard play in young Bradley Beal and John Wall, but I just don’t think that they’re there YET as far as championship contender. The rest of the East is filled with talented players but mediocre teams, leaving the Heat to basically fight it out with the Bulls and the Heat.
LeBron is probably second if not the greatest UNSELFISH superstar in NBA history right up there with Magic Johnson. Because of this, players know they will get the ball in great positions when they play with LeBron. After James departed for Cleveland, many “specialist” type of players decided to come join the Cavs. Three point elite marksmen Mike Miller and James Jones, who formerly played with James when on The Heat, signed contracts to join the Cavs. Defensive stopper and glue-guy Shawn Marion also decided to take his talents to Cleveland this offseason. Ray Allen, the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA History is also rumored to join The King and the rest of the Cavs, adding even more spacing. Last but not least, the Cavaliers traded their rookie first overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, and a couple of other smaller name players for the best power forward in the game, Kevin Love. Kevin Love is essentially a much better version of Chris Bosh. The guy has a sweet, consistent stroke from the 3 point line, is constantly among the league’s top three rebounders, averaging 25 points a night while he was in Minnesota, and is an excellent passer. The only true weakness in his game is his mediocre defense. With flashy point guard Kyrie Irving signing a long-term extension, the Cavs starting five is as follows:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Dion Waiters
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Love
C: Anderson Varejao
And key bench players consisting of Joe Harris (excellent rookie), Shawn Marion, Tristan Thompson, James Jones, Mike Miller and Matthew Dellavedova.
Yes, huge difference from their 2013-14 roster. Scary.
As soon as the NBA season tips off, it will be interesting to see if the Cavaliers can gel quickly and dominate the east from the get-go. I also want to see him square off against evenly matched foe, the Chicago Bulls now that former MVP Derrick Rose is now healthy.
LeBron’s decision to move back to Cleveland has anticipated the most exciting season of NBA Basketball yet.